Strong contender in competitive race
14:30 – Le Brivido
This is clearly a very open and competitive race, and there aren't that many you can rule out – I have always been a fan of one of the outsiders, Matterhorn, and I'm pretty sure he is a very good horse – but Le Brivido has a strong each-way chance.
He was obviously a very good horse when trained by Andre Fabre, just getting touched off on soft ground in the French 2,000 Guineas and winning the Jersey here, and he has shaped very well on both his starts since joining Aidan in the winter. He got no luck in running in the Lockinge last time, when we were never ideally placed, and he had Lord Glitters and Without Parole weakening into his path a crucial stage there.
The race was over by the time he got going, but he finished off really well, and I think he could have given the winner something to think about with a better passage. With more luck here, I'd be pretty hopeful of a big run, but it is a very deep race, albeit one lacking a stand-out.
We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Mustashry won the Lockinge very convincingly though, and plenty of others in here are entitled to fancy their chances, including the Newbury runner-up Laurens. Barney Roy is probably the form horse on his 2017 Group 1 efforts and he has run two good races of late, albeit n Listed company, but I think he would ideally like it faster.
15:05 – Arizona
He is a high-class 2yo. He shaped very well behind a good horse on his debut and he took a big step forward when beating a couple of stablemates by a wide margin at the Curragh, and the second, King Of Athens, also takes his chance here. My colt has a super attitude and 6f at Ascot will hold no fears for him. Aidan also runs another pair of decent sorts in Fort Myers and Royal Lytham, and I know a couple of the others in here pretty well, too.
I rode Maxi Boy when he won at Yarmouth and I finished second to Threat at Newmarket. I'm not sure about the strength of the latter's form, but they clearly love him and he was very impressive there.
Needs to step up
15:45 – Sergei Prokofiev
The recent rain is not a help to him. And he can't afford to give away ground at the start again, as he did when fourth to Mabs Cross in the Palace House Stakes last time. He shaped well in the circumstances there though, and Ascot's stiff 5f will suit him. He clearly has to step up a good deal to mix it with the likes of Battaash and Blue Point, but he comes in here in good shape.
Up against talented opponents
16:20 – Circus Maximus
With Magna Grecia missing the race, we have taken a bit of a punt in running Circus Maximus here after his sixth in the Derby. You would have to say that stepping back to a mile is probably not ideal but, against that, he wasn't beaten far by Classic winners over this trip at two. The blinkers replace the cheek pieces he wore at Epsom, and I can definitely see them sharpening him up, and hopefully we can get a good position from the inside stall.
The ground will be fine for him, too. This is a good renewal though, and you can't argue with Phoenix Of Spain being favourite after what he did in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. That said, I wouldn't be massively surprised if Too Darn Hot reversed the form as he obviously didn't have the ideal preparation for the Curragh. I was also impressed by his stablemate King Of Comedy at Sandown last time. He may be difficult but he is clearly very talented.
Mullins' magic to make the difference?
17:00 – Buildmeupbuttercup
You look at her form and wonder how on earth she can he favourite, given she was pulled up the last time we saw her over hurdles back in April. And then you look at who trains her – Willie has won this race four times in recent years – and it makes a lot more sense. This will be her Flat debut for the yard but she had winning bumper form here in the soft for her previous trainer, and a mark of 91 could be workable on her Goodwood fourth last year, with the first-time tongue-tie hopefully another positive. And presumably Willie could have run more than one in this race, too. Stall 19 isn't helpful, though.
The one to beat
17:35 – Magic Wand
I think she is the one to beat at these weights – she doesn't carry a penalty for her four-length win in the Ribblesdale here last season – but she would undoubtedly prefer faster ground. But she is a very good filly on her day, and she showed she has the pace for 1m2f with her second in the Prix de L'Opera, and even a reproduction of her third in America last time should see her go close. But the ground is a concern – we want it to dry out for her – and she could have had a better draw than 14.
Check out the Betfair Royal Ascot podcast, where Kieran O'Connor was joined by Joseph O'Brien, Gary O'Brien and Barry Orr to preview the finest five days in the flat racing calendar
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